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Voters reject Florida judge who denied teen an abortion because of her grades

Two anti-abortion officials lose their races in separate elections in the state

Alex Woodward
New York
Wednesday 24 August 2022 22:01 BST
Related video: DeSantis sued by attorney he fired over refusal to enforce Florida abortion ban
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The fight to preserve abortion rights is central to primary election campaigns in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the constitutional right to abortion care, with a growing number of state laws outlawing abortion and severely restricting access.

In separate elections on 23 August, voters in Florida ousted two officials who were widely criticised for their views on abortion rights.

A judge in Florida’s Hillsborough County faced widespread condemnation for a January decision to deny a 17-year-old girl an abortion without parental consent, doubting her “intelligence or credibility” and citing her low grades in school.

On Tuesday night, Judge Jared Smith lost his re-election bid.

Local judicial races typically have low national visibility, but the race between Judge Smith and his opponent, Nancy Jacobs, faced widespread scrutiny amid a nationwide battle for abortion rights and a decision to reject the teenager’s request to seek an abortion without her parents’ permission.

Florida law allows minors to seek a “judicial bypass” and get a court’s permission for an abortion if they cannot get consent from a parent or guardian.

“The court found her intelligence to be less than average … she claimed that her grades were ‘Bs’ during her testimony, her GPA is currently 2.0,” Judge Smith wrote, according to court documents. “Clearly, a ‘B’ average would not equate to a 2.0 GPA.”

Judge Jared Smith (YouTube/Judge Jared Smith)

An appeals court later overturned the decision, finding that Judge Smith abused his discretion.

In another recent case in the state, a pregnant 16-year-old girl was denied a waiver for an aobrtion after a court determined she was not “sufficiently mature” to make that decision.

The girl, who is “parentless” and living with a relative, is pursuing a GED through a programme for survivors of trauma and is “not ready to have a baby,” with her guardian noting that they are “fine” with her decision to seek an abortion, according to court documents.

A three-judge appeals court panel affirmed the court’s decision to reject her request.

Elsewhere in Florida, voters ousted state Rep James Bush, the only Democratic lawmaker in the state legislature who supported a law to ban abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy and legislation that opponents have called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

His opponent Ashley Ganntt, now the Miami-area district’s representative-elect, told the Miami Herald that his vote in support of outlawing abortion care was “directly in opposition to [her] existence and … bodily autonomy.”

“As a Black woman, I was offended when he voted to restrict my rights,” she said during a press conference last week. “As a former teacher, I was insulted that he voted to inject Tallahassee extremism into our classrooms and deny local control over our school systems.”

Protections for abortion rights also is a leading issue in the Florida governor’s race.

Charlie Crist – who won the Democratic primary election for governor to face off against Republican Ron DeSantis in the fall’s general election – has made abortion access a key priority in his campaign, though he was criticised by his opponent Nikki Fried for his record on abortion rights.

“I have been pro-choice my entire life,” Ms Fried said last month during the only debate of the Democratic primary race. “I have made sure that I’ve stood on the side of women. Charlie cannot say the same thing.”

Mr Crist responded in a campaign ad touting his record vetoing anti-abortion legislation “to protect your right to choose” and his “perfect record” from abortion rights groups Planned Parenthood and NARAL.

“Why do Republicans like Ron DeSantis not honor and respect a woman’s right to choose?” he said at the debate. “A woman’s right to choose is at stake. … I’ll fight for it.”

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